How McGee Salvage Started
Tobey Parsons, owner of McGee Salvage, has been in reclamation for over 35 years. In 1975, the Port of Grays Harbor, Washington flooded the property of the largest barn in the County. Tobey was given 45 days to salvage as much usable material from the barn as possible, this included: weathered barn siding, 100-year-old beams, and wood roofing shakes. In the salvaged materials he found the potential for a creative and unique architectural concept, “design and construct around all reclaimed materials.” Tobey bought an old tavern that was being condemned by the city, and started rebuilding it. Tobey’s Edibles and Elixirs bar in Aberdeen, Washington was born using the barn’s beams as the new bar top, the weathered siding to cover the interior walls and converting the roof shakes into siding along the exterior. Little did he know, his passion for building with recycled material would be the beginning of the hardwood flooring company, McGee Salvage.
Ten years later, Tobey opened the doors of the Great Blue Heron Cafe and Art Gallery in Portland, Oregon in the Nationally Historic Osborn Hotel. He again designed the restaurant’s interior around salvaged materials from buildings across Portland. He found 10,000 square feet of Red Oak flooring at the old Robert’s Truck Motors that was headed for the trash bin. After hours of trial and error, he developed a process to remove the flooring without damaging the original tongue and grooveâ€”saving the wood and making the product completely re-useable. The Red Oak was then used as flooring in the Great Blue Heron cafe. While Tobey was building the Great Blue Heron, the City of Portland started expansion of its own, building the Oregon Convention Center. Tobey was lucky enough to salvage material for his new cafe and art gallery from various hotels and buildings in the 16 square blocks that the Convention Center now sits on. Among the materials reclaimed were 10,000 glass blocks from a historic hotel, which he used to build walls and dividers between booths, and even the bar top and light fixtures were salvaged from a run-down hotel bar.
After its opening, the cafe’s customers raved about the flooring and wanted to know where they could find it for their own homes. Since he only used 3,000 square feet of the Red Oak for the restaurant, the remaining 7,000 square feet became the first of McGee Salvage’s inventory and sales. Thousands of buildings and floors later, Tobey is still finding hidden treasures in structures across the Northwest, and sharing these unique products with families and individuals who are looking to design beautiful floors and homes, each with its own history and story.